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Working time breach reports surge by 165%

Employers have become complacent, said Martin Tiplady, MD of Chameleon People Solutions

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) received 45 reports relating to alleged breaches of the Working Time Directive in 2022 to 2023, up 165% from 17 reports in 2021 to 2022.

According to research commissioned by employment law firm GQ Littler, the trend looks set to continue, with a further 19 reports being received by the HSE in the first six weeks of its 2023/24 reporting period. 

The Working Time Directive (WTD) broadly governs how many hours UK workers should work, what breaks they should have and their holiday entitlements. Workers are typically only allowed to work 48 hours a week, unless they have opted out of WTD.

The number of reports of alleged breaches has been steadily increasing since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic with the HSE continuing to conduct its own investigations into the concerns raised.

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Martin Tiplady, managing director of Chameleon People Solutions, said employers have become complacent.

He told HR magazine: “It seems that many employers are beginning to forget about the Working Time Directive or think, because they are not challenged, that it does not apply to them. Frankly, some employers have become very complacent.

“Brexit didn’t help. Neither did Covid.

“But the new working world is throwing up all sorts of challenges to suggest that some well-understood employment disciplines either no longer apply or are not important. It is part of a growing mindset post-Covid, that remote working means that normal employment requirements no longer apply.”

Alison Sneddon, senior counsel at GQ Littler, said employers should maintain an open dialogue with their employees about working hours expectations and how any concerns may be raised internally.

She said: “The change in working arrangements and the rise in home working since the pandemic has made it increasingly important for employers to keep under review the most effective ways of communicating with employees.

"The HSE data is a welcome reminder of the importance of publicising to employees the internal channels by which employees may raise concerns or share feedback. This affords employers and employees the opportunity to resolve any concerns at an early stage internally, and hopefully avoid escalation to external regulators.”

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